Palace of the Winds (Hawa Mahal)
Hawa Mahal , also known as Palace of the Winds is the main attraction of Jaipur. The second name of the palace comes from the natural ventilation of the building owing to the window system. That is why the inhabitants of Hawa Mahal even in the hottest heat were a little cooler than the rest of the inhabitants of the city, because a light breeze was blowing on them, even if the city itself was completely calm. Such a ventilation system is recognized as unique, making the Palace of the Winds an even more attractive structure.
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Video: Hawa Mahal
Indian/foreigner including video 10/50 rupees, Hindi/English audio guide 80/110 rupees, guide services 200 rupees; 9.00-17.00
Hawa Mahal has a stunning view of Jantar Mantar and City Palace on one side and Siredori Bazaar on the other. There’s a small museum (9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Sat.) with miniature paintings and stunning artifacts – such as ceremonial armor – that help to vividly represent the royal past. The entrance to the Palace of the Winds is at the rear of the complex. To get here, go back to the intersection on the left (when looking at Hawa Mahal), turn right, and then right again into the archway.
History of the Palace of the Winds
Originally, Hawa Mahal was created as a temple of the god Krishna. It was even built so that its appearance resembled a headdress adorning the head of God. It turned out, in principle, similar. However, Hawa Mahal never became a temple. Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh, on whose orders the structure was being built, changed his mind and decided that the building would become a palace.
The exact date of construction is uncertain, but Hawa Mahal was built no later than 1799. The building is situated right in the center of the city, so you don’t have to go somewhere to see it, and if you visit Jaipur, you can’t miss the Palace of the Winds. The facade of the building is very bizarre. I don’t think you can see it anywhere else. From afar it looks like a big anthill. Some say that Hawa Mahal looks like a jewelry box. In general, if one imagines that the jewel box is decorated with a lot of jewels, then Hawa Mahal will indeed resemble it, only instead of jewels it is decorated with a huge number of windows, niches and balconies.
Despite all this clutter, the Palace of the Winds looks very exquisite. Few architects managed to use so many architectural elements in a building and at the same time not to overload it, not to harm its appearance, but on the contrary, to adorn it. The architects of Hawa Mahal clearly balanced between sophistication and excess, but managed to create a treasure of Jaipur.
Features of Hawa Mahal
The windows in Hawa Mahal play a special role, in addition to creating natural ventilation, decorating the building, giving it a unique character, they were made with a specific purpose. The wives of maharajas and Indian princes usually lived in the Palace of the Winds. They were curious ladies, but it was forbidden to show their faces to the women of high ranking people of India. That is why it was decided to make many windows in the Wind Palace so that each wife could look through this window into the outer world. But at the same time the windows are arranged so that the wives can see everything, but no one can see them. When tourists stroll through the Palace of the Winds, they are sure to look out through these windows, imagining how the maharaja’s wives did it. It makes it easier to understand their world.
Despite all the beauty of the palace and its advantages of ventilation, it was not the harem’s permanent home. Hawa Mahal is rather flat, so the rooms of the inner rooms, though comfortable, are very small. It was inconvenient to live in them all the time, so the wives moved in only during festivities. They could watch the solemn processions outside from their windows.
Another interesting feature of Hawa Mahal, which is made in 5 tiers-stories, is that it is completely devoid of stairs. They were not needed here. There are gentle passages between the floors. And to prevent the wives of dignitaries from falling while moving between the floors, notches are made in the floor on the gentle descents. Hawa Mahal is a very unusual building in the Moorish style of pink sandstone that despite the accumulation of niches and windows looks harmonious. It is worth seeing.
Hawa Mahal in India, or the Palace of the Winds in Jaipur city, was built for the harem of maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh.
Palace of the Winds in India
One of the main attractions of Jaipur, the hallmark of this city is the Hawa Mahal Palace of the Winds. Its popularity among tourists is not surprising – the beauty of the palace is not inferior to the ancient cathedrals, and, in fact, in comparison with those, it is very, very young. Hava Mahal was built in 1799 by order of the local Maharaja for his harem. The building is in the form of Krishna’s crown, symbolizing male power and the fiery nature of the soul.
Many may mistakenly think that all the wives of the Maharaja lived in this palace, but if you look at Hawa Mahal in profile, you can see that the width of this grandiose building does not exceed 15 meters. In fact, the palace is something like a theater. The Maharaja built the palace so that his wives could watch the solemn processions taking place in the city. The jealous man didn’t want anyone else watching his wives, so you won’t find a single window in the walls bigger than a human head – that’s the main feature of the palace. Instead of windows, the wall is riddled with loopholes and artificial slits, forming a peculiar network of hollow patterns. These loopholes not only hid the harems of maharajahs from strangers’ eyes, but also created a magnificent ventilation, which cooled Khava Mahal in the heat. The hotter the heat, the stronger the streams of air flowed. Quite often in the corridors of the palace the real wind rages, which gave the name to Khava Mahal.
In total, there are 953 such miniature windows-boys in the palace, and each is decorated with a picturesque hand-made border, and many – “lace” balconies. A distinctive feature of Hawa Mahal is the complete absence of stairs. All visitors, and in the past, the maharaja’s wives and servants, all climbed the upper floors by gentle slopes. A fall often meant, if not death, then disability for the faller and all those going below. Oddly enough, there were not even railings on most of the ascent. The only way to get to the top floor was to wear special shoes with special notches on the soles. Each of the rooms of the palace is open to free visit by tourists. The upper windows of Hawa Mahal offer a magnificent view of the historical homeland of the Rajputs.
The shape of the building also reflected the hierarchical pyramid of the harem. The maharajah’s favorite wives sat at the very top, the common concubines in the lower chambers. The higher up the tourist climbed, the greater the beauty revealed to him. The upper chambers of the Hawa Mahal are decorated with numerous stained glass windows, and if they were visible from the street, the building would have an obvious resemblance to the cathedrals of Central Europe. Interestingly, the Vetorv Palace is often used by Shivaite yogis for ritual purposes. However, not being as radical as the people of Varanasi or Sri Lanka, local Shivaites limit themselves to smoking hashish and contemplating the city panoramas in which they find the face of God.
There is also a pleasant feature associated with these rituals that the local guides will not tell you. Since Jaipur is one of the most progressive cities in India, the law is still respected here and drug possession is punishable. To avoid problems with religious Shivaites, the authorities turn a blind eye to smoking in the Palace of the Winds. This means, first, that there is very little chance of getting a fine or a criminal record for hashish here. Second, it’s easy to find hash in the palace, even without the Shivaites offering it to everyone you meet. There are bits of shivaite “strategic stock” hidden everywhere in the niches, crevices, and other cavities of the palace.
According to various estimates, about two kilograms of hashish are stored here. With proper diligence and absence of health problems you can find and freely smoke hash of the yogis, getting a piece of their enlightenment. Strangely enough, the drug dealers in India are all religious people and they revere the sacred hashish of Shiva. Moreover, according to the Shivaite canons, the one who “dares to touch the palm of Shiva with money” – to sell or buy hashish for rituals – will get immediate revenge from the god. This is why criminal elements do not burden the Palace of the Winds with their presence.
So, if you find yourself in Jaipur, be sure to visit Hawa Mahal. Even if you don’t like hashish, at least you will ensure a unique photo shoot and vivid memories for years to come.